10 August 2018

Idles - Joy as an Act of Resistance

Finding the right words to open this review is proving elusive, so I'm going to start with that confession.  Not because I'm not familiar with Idles, far from it as regular readers of this blog will attest to.  Last year, Brutalism (you can read our review here) was number two in our album of the year list behind Oxbow.  "Mother" was in the top ten songs of 2017 and still regularly gets an airing around my house.  I also was lucky enough to see them live.  It was at the Think Tank in Newcastle with support from Dunes and Mouse and it was a fantastic show.  I think the reason I'm struggling is that I know how excited I've been in anticipating this album.  I've been bugging the PR company for weeks to get my mitts on a stream or download and now I have it.   So, it's been an exciting couple of days listening to this record.  However, anticipation and actuality can be two distinctly different things.  There have been thousands of albums that I've feverishly waited for, but the end results have been lacking.  I'm hoping that Joy as an Act of Resistance will not head down the same route.  Well, there is only one way to find out.

Joy as an Act of Resistance is Idles second album, which will be released on Partisan Records on 31st August.  At the time of writing, three songs have been released as singles before it's release - "Colossus", "Danny Nedelko" and "Samaritans".  Each track brings something different to the table.  "Colossus" is a slow building monster that can smash holes in speakers, "Danny Nedelko" is going to become one of Idles most treasured tracks in years to come and "Samaritans" is as hard-hitting as anything of Brutalism. However, they leave the hardest and most devastating track has been left on the album.  "June" has me in tears already as I can sadly identify with every word of it, the raw and emotional display is terrifying and it's hard to not shed a tear or two.  I won't go too deep into it, but it'll be one of the most talked about aspects of this album in years to come.

Elsewhere, you have the fantastic train of thought that is "Never Fight a Man With a Perm", a song that jumps from topic to topic and never seems to stay still.  "Great" see Idles ranting about Brexit and the articulated anger on display is fantastic.  "Cry to Me" contains a swagger to the riff and the lyrical fragility is a sharp contrast to their usual barrage of noise. "Love Song" sounds anything but loving, in fact, it's rather harrowing in places. It's a tale of modern romance and it sounds vicious as hell in places.  But the lyrics keep coming back to me, the riff and noise are lodged in my brain and they won't move for anything. From "Colossus" to the snapping "Rottweiler", each song feels like it's ready to explode and change the world around you.  But the songs aren't aiming for epic, that is left for the beige sea of indie artists who are trying to make festival moments.  Idles seem to be aiming for something different, they seem to be aiming to bring social change.  Yes, there are emotional issues attached to a lot of the songs, but not in the way to bring people together in euphoria.

This is the joy of Idles.  Just when you think you've figured them out, they change something unexpectedly.   There is no massive move to a new sound, they're still making a glorious noise.  This is in keeping with the incendiary tone of Brutalism, but there is also a layer of confidence added to the sound.  You cannot fake that sort of thing, its impossible ignore as well.  They know their own worth, it oozes through each note, each beat and each snapping vocal.  To the outsider, it might sound like noise and incoherent ranting.  To the experienced, it's another slice of Manna from a noise influenced Eden.  Yet, when I reach the end of this album, I have to ask the following.  Are there any issues here?  Are there things that could be changed? Have they repeated themselves?  These are questions I must ask if only to make sure this is not a love letter to the band.  Well, that is the billion Euro question, isn't it.....

In one sense, the steps forward here are not huge, some tracks could have fitted effortlessly on Brutalism.  Is that really a crime though?  It's only just been over a year since Brutalism was released, so their sound is not going to be that much different.  Therefore, it shouldn't really be an issue here.  At the end of the day, I'm focusing on how the album leaves me once the final note has rung out.  I think they've reached whatever target they set themselves. Joy as an Act of Resistance takes them further down the road towards infamy, it meets the hype head on and hits it out of the park.  It's a harrowing, vicious and brutal record in places, but who said Idles were ever easy?  I love it, it's a small improvement on everything from Brutalism, so it's not the shocker that I was expecting.  Don't get me wrong, that doesn't change the outcome for Joy as an Act of Resistance.  This is a great album and it'll be near the top of my end of year list.  It doesn't repeat the shock and awe of their debut, but that was never on the card in some ways.  What I love this album though, is the fact they've made an album where there is no dead weight, no wasted effort and it takes everything forwards.  That's an amazing thing when you consider how volatile their music sounds.  At the end of the day, it would be stupid to ignore this record, so why bother?  Order it now, purchase it now if you're reading this after the 31st August 2018, it'll be an essential record for 2018.  And I'm so glad that I haven't ended this review with the obvious line......

9.5 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost.....

Top tracks - Colossus/June

You can pre-order Joy as an Act of Resistance on the Idles Bandcamp page here.

You can pre-order Joy as an Act of Resistance on Amazon here.

You can visit the Idles website here, another place you can pre-order Joy as an Act of Resistance.

You can follow the activities of Idles on Facebook here.

At the time of writing, Joy as an Act of Resistance is not available on streaming sites.  However, once (and if) Joy as an Act of Resistance is added to either Deezer (Link), Spotify (Link) or Tidal (Link), you'll be able to find it by hitting 'Link' against your service of choice.  But you really should buy it, that would be a much better idea.

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